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Putting Your ExpressCard Slot to Work in Your Laptop

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Laptop builders have quietly replaced the once-common PCMCIA and CardBus slots with a slot design called ExpressCard. However, the typical laptop with an ExpressCard slot uses that slot as a remote control holder. The ExpressCard slot found in most late-model laptop computers (and a few desktop computers) is a prime example of a high-speed technology that most users aren’t putting to work. Tech expert Mark Edward Soper helps you discover how to put ExpressCard’s high-speed bus to work so you can connect your laptop to today’s — and tomorrow’s — fastest and most useful devices.
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What Is ExpressCard?

The ExpressCard slot found in most late-model laptop computers (and a few desktop computers) is a prime example of a high-speed technology that most users aren’t putting to work. Walk into your typical big-box electronics store and you’ll find a sea of laptops ready for ExpressCard, but hardly a cupful of devices that will fit into an ExpressCard slot. Fortunately, you can find plenty of ExpressCard devices online.

In this article, you’ll discover what ExpressCard is, how you can use it, and some of the leading vendors that make ExpressCard add-on cards. By the time you finish this article, you’ll be ready to find a new home for the remote control or blank spacer currently filling your computer’s ExpressCard slot so you can improve your computer’s versatility.

ExpressCard is a high-speed bus connector that enables a wide variety of devices to be connected to your laptop. That’s what they said about the old CardBus slot as well. So, what makes ExpressCard better? Here are the facts:

  • CardBus uses a 32-bit connection to a CardBus controller. The CardBus controller connects to the 32-bit PCI bus, which it has to share with many other devices.
  • ExpressCard connects via either the PCI Express (PCIe) or USB 2.0 bus directly to the system chipset. As a result, ExpressCard is at least 2.5x faster than CardBus. If you were disappointed in the performance of devices connected to CardBus, you’ll be a lot happier with device performance on ExpressCard.
  • The ExpressCard standard incorporates two form factors: ExpressCard/34 and ExpressCard/54. ExpressCard/34 is 34mm wide, and (you guessed it) ExpressCard/54 is 54mm wide. Both form factors use the same 26-contact connector, and you can connect ExpressCard/34 devices into either type of ExpressCard slot.

To see a diagram comparing ExpressCard to CardBus, visit the ExpressCard page at the USB Implementers Forum, Inc website.

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